Hospital executive wants to know if he has a conflict of interest

Aug 25, 2011

The following article was published in The Florida Current on August 25, 2011:

Hospital executive wants to know if he has a conflict of interest

By Christine Jordan Sexton

A former top aide to Gov. Jeb Bush and a key member of the transition team for Gov. Rick Scott is seeking guidance from the state’s ethics commission.

Alan Levine, who is considered one of the architects of Florida’s existing Medicaid reform plan, has asked if he has a conflict-of-interest now that he has been appointed to the University of Florida Board of Trustees. Scott appointed Levine back in May. Levine, who was once secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, was in charge of the health and human services transition team for Scott.

Levine’s current employer is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Health Management Associates which shares ownership with Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics in three community hospitals. A subsidiary of HMA also provides consulting and management services for the hospitals located in Live Oak, Starke and Lake City and Levine’s employer implements the agreements. Levine also owns stock in HMA.

Shands is controlled by the University of Florida president and its board has numerous UF officials on it.

The staff of the Florida Commission on Ethics, however, has concluded that Levine does not have a conflict-of-interest because HMA is not doing business directly with the University of Florida.

“While it may be said that UF through its relationship with Shands has some interests in common with HMA and its family of companies we consistently have found that separate corporations have separate legal identities,” states the draft opinion.

Additionally the opinion states: “It is conceivable that given the board’s statutory authority with respect to Shands, and in view of Shands influence over its subsidiaries, the board could make a policy decision that could affect change all the way down to the level of the hospitals. But there is no evidence that this happened, is likely, or is even reasonably foreseeable.”

But the commission staff opinion, however, did warn Levine that he cannot vote on anything that would directly benefit him or HMA and its subsidiaries.

The full Ethics Commission is scheduled to consider the opinion at its Sept. 9 meeting.

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